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New Orleans

 I visited New Orleans for the first time recently and was blown away by the city: its history, its culture, its food, the architecture, the people, and oh yeah, the music too. It truly is a Jambalaya! Take some American Indians, mix in the Spanish, the French, the Creoles, the Arcadian Cajuns and you have about the biggest filet gumbo you can find.

Rockaway is a pretty cool place too, but the open container policy in the French Quarter ensures a 24-hour party every day of the year, not just for Mardi Gras. Bourbon Street, named after that royal family in France, is a place where just about anything goes. I was not prepared for the racy gentlemen’s clubs at one end of the street and the truly rainbow environment at the other end. In between there are bars everywhere with music blaring at top volume. There is jazz, blues, zydeco, you name it they had it. They say that you either love or loathe Bourbon Street. The mermaid was not crazy about it but I found it part of Americana.

Did you know you could charter your own parade? Yep, all you do is register with the NOLA Police and hire a band and march through the streets to your own beat. Our young merman scheduled his trip to NOLA at the same time forgetting that we told him we would be there too. He did mention that he would be in a parade with his friends, and low and behold, as I was sitting in Pat O’Brien’s he marched right by! So I jumped out of the bar and joined him, shocking him when he turned to see ME! Life is good sometimes.

New Orleans is definitely not all about Bourbon Street however. The French Quarter has some of the best restaurants around and the Garden District made famous by so many writers, including Anne Rice of Vampire fame, is beautiful. There is a great Aquarium, a Steamboat with dinner/jazz cruises on the Mississippi, a casino, the national World War II Museum, and so much more. Frenchmen Street is a cute enclave adjacent to the French Market with cafes and a burgeoning music scene of its own.

Did I mention the food? Beignets, grits, muffulettas, gumbos, and jambalaya: they got it all going on. And cemeteries yes the famous cemeteries, all above ground because naturally New Orleans is below sea level. Katrina knocked the hell out of the place, but they sure have come back. Smart investments by the city, state and federal government have made NOLA the place to visit. The people are the friendliest too, and they all thank you for visiting and ask when are you coming back. Southern charm is not lost there. There are homeless, and some unseemly characters on the periphery, make no mistake this is not Disney. But if you are going to be on the street this is not a bad place to do it: it’s warm, there is music in the air, and people do give money.

Which brings me back to Rockaway. It’s been four years since Sandy and there has been some movement but not the type of movement that New Orleans has seen. That place is an economic money machine! How many industries do you know that can set up hundreds of the same type of establishments right next to each other and they all do well. And these aren’t big corporations, these are individually owned and operated businesses by entrepreneurs taking a risk that people will come and spend money. You know what, I did!

Rockaway is getting there and with a little bit of help maybe we can be the little engine that could.  

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